Studio Lighting – Flash Mounted homemade DIY Beauty Dish or From Soup Dish to Beauty Dish

flash beauty dishDo you know why they call this piece of studio equipment “Beauty Dish”? Because it make people look beautiful. The idea is similar to other diffusion ideas – the more diffusion you put in your light, the softer the image is. This idea is widely deployed in photography studios – the softbox, the beauty dishes and the reflector disc all work on close principles.

The unique thing about a Beauty Dish is the way that it diffuses light – unlike a softbox or a reflector which has an “illuminating” surface the beauty dish has a circle of light with an opaque center. Now, what all this has to do with soup. You will soon find out.

Beauty Dish is an expensive flash accessory, this beauty dish from Hensel is more then 200USD.
I was thinking about beauty dishes when I sat down at my local soup parlor, eating my favorite onion soup. Looking down at the soup dish, I realized that this dish (along with the pickles dish) can become a nice little flash mounted beauty dish. The rest of this article describes the amazing transformation the poor soup dish had gone through. The idea is similar to the one presented on the flash mounted softbox article, it is a cheap diffusion solution for a hot shoe flash.

The uniqueness of the beauty dish is in the shape of light it makes. The light is doughnut shaped – a round circle with a hole in the middle. This makes even shadowless light on the subject, while making the back shadows less harsh. If it is close to the subject, you will get doughnut like shadow on your background. Here are the general schematics of a beauty dish:

beauty dish schematics

Here is the list of materials I used:

  • 1 big plastic soup dish (you can get them at “Dollar stores” or party stores.
  • 1 small pickles dish
  • An x-acto knife
  • A silver marker
  • Aluminum foil and glue or silver paint spray
  • A candle and a screwdriver
  • 3 cable ties

You can use any soup dish you find. The bigger the dish, the better the results. This is what the dishes looked like before I hacked them into studio equipment. (I used the DIY studio setup to take the all the pictures in this article) here are two of the soup dish candidates

flash beauty dish 01

First you have to measure your flash head. My SB800 was about 7cmX5cm. I marked the back of the soup dish with the size of the flash head, and made cross in the middle of the square. since I am using a black plate, I used a silver marker.

flash beauty dish 03

now carefully use the X-acto knife to cut a window using your marked lines.

flash beauty dish 04

The next phase is the most fun one in the process. you have to make the dish surface reflective. there are two options here. The slow and agonizing way is to use glue and aluminum foil (I recommend the UHU glue in the picture) and glue the foil onto the dishes. A faster way is to spray paint the entire dish with silver. Naturally, my lazy nature made my pick options two. When spray painting / aluminum gluing – refer to the schematics to see what surfaces should be the reflectuve ones. (in the picture – the foil and the painted plate)

flash beauty dish 05

flash beauty dish 06

Now we need to place the two dishes together. I used cable ties for that. For punching the holes in the dishes I used a heated screw driver (heated over a candle). I did not use the X-acto knife because holes made with this way has a tendency to grow, and to go out of control.
I punched hole in the bigger dish, then placed the small side inside the big dish, and marked the placed to punch in the small dish. Then I punched the small dish.

flash beauty dish 07

flash beauty dish 09

Next I put the cable ties through the dishes; this creates a “dual dish” where the small dish “sits” in the big dish. Then I removed the slack cable tie leftovers. And this is it.

flash beauty dish 10

This is what the final assembly looks like; I used a rubber band to keep the dish on the flash. When you connect the two – make sure the flash head is aligned with the base of the big plate.

flash beauty dish 12

Here are some sample pictures taken with and without the beauty dish. Left picture – with beauty dish, right picture with no beauty dish. Note the interesting shadow shape on the left.

flash beauty dish 14

Here is another example with my favorite model – wolverine.

flash beauty dish 13

Lastly, see how the beauty dish creates an interesting catch light. This last sample is a crop of my daughter’s picture. Notice how the catch light in her eye is doughnut-like.

flash beauty dish 15

Have fun building the beauty dish. Drop me a line or post a comment to show off with your results.